Seven Notrump

In which some people who play bridge blog about it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hours of fun

Searching Google for "longest rubber" doesn't bring up anything bridge-related, but last night's might be a contender. It comprised 23 deals, and lasted somewhere around three and a half hours. It was also our first stab at playing for money, but I'm not sure that was a factor. Nobody was bidding particularly aggressively, but we (mostly We) kept racking up 50 cents at a time, above the line. Final tally: $16.80 for me and Jeff. The next couple of rubbers went by fast.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Yesterday at the farmer's market



What bridge player could resist?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

We are not alone

The slam puzzle that stumped Bryan was solved today by VANG from Romania -- congratulations, VANG!

VANG has a bridge blog of his/her/its own, which mentions some interesting bidding conventions. The site also links to other bridge blogs (at a level above our own, I'd say), including The Beer Card, which looks alarmingly similar to this one here, and from which I learn that
The Beer Card is the Seven of Diamonds. It is not part of the official rules of Bridge, but there is a tradition among some players that if the declarer succeeds in making the contract and wins the last trick with the Seven of Diamonds, dummy must buy the declarer a beer of the declarer's choice. In the same way, if the opponents defeat the contract and one of them wins the last trick with the Seven of Diamonds, the opponent who wins the last trick is bought a beer by the other opponent.
Sounds like a good fillip.

bad iconsAnnoyingly, all these bridge sites use the "&spades;" style of HTML entities for displaying their suits, which displays very badly on many Macs of my acquaintance (see screenshot). That's why I use GIFs on this site and on Rubber Soul -- please let me know if any of that looks odd on your browser.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Runaway bidding


South
West
North
East
♠ Pass♥ Pass
3NTPass♣ Pass
4NTPass♥ Pass
6NTPassPassPass



Last night Marya and Kathy went for a wild ride. Holding 20 points, balanced distribution, and four spade honors, Marya opened the bidding and then jumped, having determined that, with Kathy's heart support, a no-trump game was in order. But, especially given her unbalanced shape, Kathy took the jump as artificially forcing and asking for a new suit, which she named. Marya, more determined than ever to brake the bidding in no-trump, rebid 4 -- but 4NT is the cue for Blackwood, and Kathy dutifully counted her aces. A 5NT response from Marya would have continued the Blackwood and the fugitive auction, so she leapt to 6NT and heroically brought the auction to an end with a resounding slam! After that, scoring 12 tricks was easy. Would you have bid it differently?

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Doesn't my zero of rain muttonate your lobster?

My one regret about learning bridge is that doing so took away a smaller pleasure: that of reading the newspaper bridge column in blissful befuddlement over novel terms like "vulnerable," "splinter bid," and "partner." I seem to recall that Swislocki, now departed for Browner shores, expressed the same regret.

Fortunately there's still Double Fanucci, whose 15 suits, multiple simultaneous dealers, and thousands of rules including Overpasses and the Balsawood Convention, provide ample obscurity for those of us who enjoy such things. As an added bonus, there's no risk whatsoever that one might learn the game's intricacies and render it non-opaque. Here is an educational deal.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Goulash tournament

Really. This weekend, in Moscow, the world champions of goulash will face off! I wish I could be there. Maybe next year I will, as the site suggests, "Play goulash and get unforgettable impressions!"

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Grand slam puzzle

Sidney Lenz
Here's a historic hand from the lovely Goren book that's fun to wrap one's mind around for a minute. It was played by Sidney Lenz (stern-looking chap over there-->), who sat South and confidently bid up to seven, holding 8 high-card points and no aces. The bidding is an educational marvel in itself -- that 2NT is reminiscent of Jacoby's.


North
East
South
West
♣ ♥ ♠ Pass
2NTPass♣ Pass
♦ Pass♣ Pass
♠ Pass♠ Pass
PassPass
Contract: 7 ♠  
Lead: ♥ J
North
♠ A Q 4
♥ K 9 6 5
♦ A 10 4
♣ A Q 7
West
♠ 10 5
♥ J 10 8 3
♦ K J 7 2
♣ 9 6 2
East
♠ 9 7 2
♥ A Q 7 4 2
♦ Q 9 8 5
♣ 3
South
♠ K J 8 6 3
♥ - -
♦ 6 3
♣ K J 10 8 5 4



If you bid that aggressively, you better be able to back it up on the table. Despite the apparently unavoidable loser, Lenz made his 13 tricks. How would you play the contract?

3 comments:

  At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous Bryan said:

Stumped. I was trying to figure out a way to put a "squeeze" on the defenders and then keeping track of the discards, but I can't find the right combo. Alack.

Happy birthday Paul!!!!! When are we taking you out to celebrate? Should I get hookers?

  At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 9:28:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

Hmm, the hookers you got last year could barely count points. But if you can find a better pair, count me in.

I'll leave this puzzle open for solving.

  At Friday, October 27, 2006 7:53:00 AM, Blogger VANG said:

dummy reversal (ruff 3 hearts in hand plus 6 club tricks plus 3 trumps from dummy and the ace of diamonds = 13 tricks).

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Homegrown refinements

As a somewhat newish player, I'm hesitant to stray far from the precepts of the cheat sheet I learned from. But we have made a few deviations, largely according to the wisdom of Bryan, and I'd like to enumerate those for everybody, in part to avoid fouled-up Stayman contracts like the one I played last night.

1. STAYMAN
The cheat sheet says, for example, that you can respond to 1NT holding a five-card minor suit with 6 points, which is what screwed us up last night. That's great but incorporating four-suit transfers into Stayman seems to work better. If I may loosely quote myself, for the record:

To respond to a 1NT opening, you should have 8+ points. A response of 2D shows five hearts, 2H shows five spades, 2S shows five clubs and no four-card major, and 2NT shows five diamonds. To show a balanced hand, bid 2C and then rebid 2NT when it's your turn again. (Any of these bids can be made at the 3-level instead, which promises maybe 12 points and is forcing to game.) A 2C response is Stayman, showing at least one four-card major suit. Responses by opener to 2C are: 2D in the absence of a four-card major; 2H with four hearts (may also have four spades); 2S with four spades (implies fewer than four hearts). Memorize this.

2. OVERCALLS
The cheat sheet says you can overcall with 8 points; if you have opening strength, make a jump overcall. That's great but its primary usefulness seems to be gumming up the opponents; it doesn't give partner, who'll have his own chance to bid anyway, very much information. We've started requiring 13 points for an overcall. I'm happy to hear opposing views on this though.

3. MEDIUM TWOS
The cheat sheet says if you have 18-21 points, you must bid one of a suit and then jump shift. An opening bid of two of a suit promises game in your own hand. That's great but as I have complained before, I often get passed before I can jump. That's why we've been saying that you can bid two of a suit with 18-22 points, which is forcing for one round. Nobody's ever been dealt game-in-hand in my experience, not even Twenty-Point Jeff, so I'm not terribly worried about how to deal with that situation.


If you play with us and you see that I'm leaving something important off the list, please let me know. If you don't play with us and one of the things I'm proposing seems wrongheaded, please please let me know, gently.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

A fine new trend

David and Sabrina, enthusiastic new recruits to the bridge table, started what is sure to be an illustrious bridge career very well tonight -- with a gift to yours truly, of Goren's Sports Illustrated Book Of Bridge.
Goren bridge cover
I don't think they even knew this is my birthday week. I can't wait to delve into such juiciness as "The greatest crime in bridge," "How much should you trust your partner," and awed references to Univac. Thank you, guys! I encourage all bridge players to, um, follow suit.

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3 comments:

  At Tuesday, October 17, 2006 1:38:00 PM, Blogger M said:

I didn't know it was your birthday week either. Happy birthday? How old? (You don't have to answer that.)

That illo is gorgeous. The book or (I really hope) a card deck?

  At Tuesday, October 17, 2006 3:57:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

That's the slipcase the book comes in: hardcover, quarto, 518 pages, original errata letter enclosed, full of color illustrations, gorgeous.

Stay tuned for a thoughtful post, someday, about the Great Fall of Bridge, from an era in which Sports Illustrated could produce such a lovely, smart, and best-selling tome, to today, when the game is kept alive by elite tournament societies on the one hand, and a gaggle of freakish amateurs in a bar on the other. Goren was also on the cover of Time in 1958, and hosted a popular bridge TV show that ran for five years.

  At Tuesday, October 17, 2006 5:26:00 PM, Blogger M said:

I was going to say the usual stuff about the Great Fall--bridge peaked during the Depression, when it was a cheap and easy way for four people (two couples, frequently) to amuse and entertain themselves at home rather than go out and spend money they didn't have--but 1958 gives me pause. Maybe chess overtook it in the public imagination thanks to Bobby Fischer? At least, I'd guess there's something of a colorful-sportsman aspect that bridge has often lacked. Plus people tend to like simpler games than one with 874 different bidding systems.

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Playing right into my hands

I don't have anything terribly profound to say about this fun hand that I played last night -- just wanted to get it written down before I forgot the details.

Contract: 3 NT 
Lead: ♦ 9
North
♠ 8 7 5 2
♥ 8 7 4
♦ A J 4
♣ K 8 4
South
♠ A Q 10 3
♥ A K 9 5
♦ 7
♣ A J 9 3


I had to make three finesses, in three different suits, in order to make my 3NT contract off the top. I was afraid to lose any tricks early, lest the opponents run their long diamonds. So I played the jack on the nine of diamonds, which held the trick, led a spade toward my hand and finessed the queen, and crossed to the king of clubs in preparation for my last finesse. At that point I had to cash the ace of diamonds, my only stopper in that suit, since that would be my last opportunity to play from the board. (Emily, that's what I was nervous about -- giving up the ace meant that, if the club finesse lost, the opponents would gain control and win all those diamond tricks. I was trying to explain that to you discreetly, without letting the opponents know I had so few diamonds in my hand.) Then I led a club toward the jack for the last finesse.

And it worked! What are the odds of that? (Let's see ... each finesse has a 50 percent chance of success, so three finesses in sequence is 12.5 percent likely to succeed?) I could have cashed the club ace and king, hoping a doubleton queen would fall, but odds there were slimmer, I figured.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Second hand emotion

Say you're defending a no-trump game, holding Q-7-6 in a suit nobody bid. Dummy leads the jack from A-J-10-8. Sitting second, do you play high or low?

Greetings to our readers from Romania, Ireland, and even Canada! And everybody please welcome new contributor Jeff. Over to you, Jeff!

2 comments:

  At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 8:41:00 PM, Anonymous Bryan said:

Low fer shur! When the king wins, the queen is still good as a stopper.

  At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 9:19:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

It's a convoluted situation. I agree with your choice, but here's my reasoning. Either your partner has the king, or declarer does: it's 50/50.

If your partner has the king, then playing low is the way to go: the king will win the trick and the queen is positioned after dummy to take another trick in the suit.

BUT if declarer has the king and you play low, the jack can win that trick, and the queen may well fall under the king or the ace.

Seems like even odds. But my thinking was: play low. Declarer doesn't know where the queen is. If he has the king he may well be looking for a finesse. His next step might be to try the finesse in the other direction, leading low from his hand and playing the 10 from dummy. Then the queen is a winner.

If only my analysis could be that careful in the heat of a game. Maybe after another 30 years.

Would you still play low if you only had Q-7?

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Rubber Soul

I forgot to post this! A couple of weeks ago I was looking around the web for a computer program that would keep score automatically, but all I found was BridgeKeeper, which only scores duplicate bridge, and only works on Macs.

I reused the scoring mechanism from BridgeKeeper to write a scoring program for rubber bridge: Rubber Soul. Try it out at home this weekend! Let me know if it gives you any trouble or if you have any suggestions for improving it. (Oh, it doesn't work on Internet Explorer; sorry if that's a hindrance.)

1 comments:

  At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 8:43:00 PM, Anonymous Bryan said:

Great! Nice for us scoring-challenged individuals...

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